Plastic Cup STEM Challenges Your Kids will Love
Spoiler alert – there is no basic tower challenge in this list. Building towers is a great way to start off any cup STEM challenge, but I have a list of a few some fun and engaging challenges using primarily plastic cups. Some are oldies but goodies, and others you may not have seen or tried before.
Get Started with Plastic Cup STEM – Materials
Although you can use inexpensive plastic cups for these challenges, I recommend using a sturdy variety. You do not need to get the brand name, most expensive cups, though. I used my local grocery store’s version of a heavy duty brand name cup.
Create a Plastic Cup Telephone
A really easy challenge to get started with is a plastic cup telephone. Many kids will have done this before, however try to supply them with a variety of string and/or wire types for the line, and have them test out different versions to see which works best.
Make it easier for little ones: Have a variety of telephones already put together. Use different string types or different lengths of string and have them try to speak messages to each other. Make sure the line is pulled tight for best results.
Another Sound Challenge – Create a Plastic Cup Sound Amplifier (shown above, top)
Smartphone speakers just not loud enough to share your favorite jams with your students? Have them create a sound amplifier! Not only is this a really great hands-on STEM activity to explore sound principles, it is actually useful. The roller, also shown above is included in the plastic cup STEM challenge pack I have linked below. It is simple but includes a hands-on way to explore torque and friction.
Plastic Cup Anemometer
This one is a bit tricky but the result is absolutely worth it. Create your very own anemometer to measure wind speed. Use five cups, some towels, and tape or a push pin and you can create an anemometer!
Try These STEM Challenges with the Engineering Design Process
If you want to add more rigor to these challenges by following the engineering design process, please visit the following resource I put together to support these plastic cup STEM challenges. With this guided STEM resource, students need to meet the design criteria specified to complete the challenge. Add it to your STEM Friday or Maker Monday rotation, or save it for a sub.
You can find Plastic Cup STEM Challenges here:
Pin these Plastic Cup STEM Ideas for Later: